Lee Hull, who led the Morgan State football team to its first Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearance in school history, confirmed Monday night that he is leaving his head coaching post to become the wide receivers coach for the Indianapolis Colts.
Hull called the decision "bittersweet."
"I think the future is bright for Morgan football," he said. "We're going in the right direction. In the two years I was there, we laid down a great foundation. The kids are doing better in the classroom, they're doing better off the field socially. … Everything is going in the right direction.
"That's what made it difficult because I'm not going to see my vision come to fruition for this football program. But it was an opportunity I could not pass up. Going to the NFL has always been a dream of mine, and these opportunities only come once in a lifetime."
Hull, 50, had wrapped up his second season with the Bears, compiling a combined 11-12 overall record and a 10-6 mark in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
In 2014, Hull guided the program to a share of its first league championship in 35 years and the FCS playoffs. That team set or tied 57 season and conference records. For his effort, Hull was named the MEAC Coach of the Year and was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson FCS Coach of the Year award.
Morgan State athletic director Floyd Kerr said Hull informed him of his decision "a couple days ago" and said school officials are happy for Hull. Kerr, who announced that offensive coordinator Fred Farrier will serve as interim head coach, said Hull's departure is not a setback for the team.
"Yes, our leader left, and that will have some impact on the program," Kerr said. "But you always want the transition to be as seamless as possible so that there is no uncertainty among the student-athletes. There's assurances that they will still be able to meet their goals and objectives, and they won't have to learn a whole new system. I don't see it as a setback for the program. I see it as a program that's emerging. We're on the upswing, and I see us continuing in that direction."
Hull said he met with his coaching staff at 4 p.m. and then informed the players in a team meeting 30 minutes later. Hull admitted he was apprehensive about telling the players.
"I thought it was going to be difficult, but once I got started, they applauded and were very happy for me," he said. "It went a lot better and a lot smoother than I thought it would go. Afterward, probably 80 percent of them came to my office to say goodbye and congratulate me and thank me for what I did and changing their lives around. That was the difficult part, but they understood the opportunity in front of me."
Hull came to Morgan State from Maryland, where he had been the Terps wide receivers coach from 2008 to 2013. During that span, he helped develop former McDonogh graduate Darrius Heyward-Bey and Torrey Smith into first- and second-round NFL draft picks by the Oakland Raiders and Ravens, respectively. Former Terps LaQuan Williams and Tony Logan were signed by the Ravens and New England Patriots, respectively.
With the Colts, Hull will replace Jim Hostler, who was the Ravens wide receivers coach from 2008 to 2013. Indianapolis went 8-8 last season and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in head coach Chuck Pagano's four-year tenure.
Hull said Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski reached out to him recently as a reference for another candidate and then asked Hull if he would be interested. Hull said he has known Chudzinski since interviewing with Chudzinski when he was the offensive coordinator with the Carolina Panthers from 2011 to 2012, and the two have kept in touch.
In Indianapolis, Hull will work with two-time Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton, seven-time Pro Bowler Andre Johnson, 2014 third-round draft pick Donte Moncrief and 2015 first-round pick Phillip Dorsett.
"It's very exciting," Hull said. "T.Y. is an All-Pro. Andre Johnson is there, and he's been to numerous Pro Bowls. They got Dorsett in the first round last year from Miami, and they've got Donte Moncrief who is also a very good football player and a young guy. Three of their top four receivers are young, and they've got one veteran guy in Andre Johnson. So it's exciting because they've got a real good receiving corps."
Hull's time at Morgan included some turmoil. On Aug. 10, 2014, freshman Marquese Meadow collapsed during a practice. Fourteen days later, the 6-foot-2, 300-pound defensive lineman died due to complications related to heat stroke. The death was ruled accidental by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
On March 17, 2015, a walk-on player was stabbed during a campus fight. At the time, Hull said the player was released from a hospital the day of the incident after getting six stitches.
Hull was also an assistant coach at Oregon State from 2003 to 2007 where he coached current Patriots running back Steven Jackson and at Holy Cross from 1998 to 2002. He served an internship with the San Diego Chargers from 2000 to 2001.
Hull played wide receiver at Holy Cross under former Terps coach Mark Duffner in 1986 and 1987. He played for the Toronto Argonauts and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.
Interim coach Farrier was the head coach at Division II Kentucky State from 2005 to 2009 and coached wide receivers at Michigan State under former coach Nick Saban.
"He has a good relationship with the team," Hull said of Farrier. "I think the biggest thing is, the university wanted a smooth transition and wanted to keep things going in that direction, and Fred will do that. He will put his twist on things. He's not Lee Hull. He's Fred Farrier. He'll do a great job and will keep the program moving in the right direction."
The move was first reported by Sports Illustrated.